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How to block tracking pixels in Apple Mail

Today’s technology makes email tracking very easy. The surprisingly detailed information is sent to that company or person to further their marketing efforts thanks to something called “tracking pixels.” We will show you how to block them in Apple Mail.

What are tracking pixels?

Tracking pixels do what it says on the tin – they’re pixels embedded in the body of an email that track its activity. They may be part of an image, but sometimes they are part of a link or invisible to the naked eye.

When you open an email with a tracking pixel inside it, the code written in that pixel transmits information to the sender. That can include whether the email was opened, what you clicked on, and even where you were when you opened it.

A article by Karissa Bell for Mashable explains how an email marketing company, called SendGrid, uses tracking pixels. Their version of the software is called Open Tracking:

“Open Tracking adds an invisible one-pixel image to the end of the email that can track email opens. If the recipient of the email has images enabled in their email client and a request is made to the SendGrid server for the invisible image, then an open event is logged.

Anyone using this software can know not only who opened their email, but how often they opened it, as an “open event” is logged each time they do so.

How can you block them

Fortunately, there are several ways to block email tracking pixels. A couple of them were available with iOS 15 and OS Monterey implementations. Whether you’re using an iPad, iPhone, or Mac computer, these updates will allow you to easily block email trackers.

Apple describes the feature, called Email Privacy Protection, like this:

“When you receive an email in the Mail application, instead of downloading remote content when you open an email, Mail Privacy Protection downloads remote content in the background by default, regardless of how you interact with the email or not. Apple does not obtain any information about the content «.

The feature also routes remote content downloaded via Mail through a proxy server to prevent the sender of an email from getting your IP adress , which can show your location. The sender will be shown a proxy IP address for their area, so they can see the general area, but not the IP address of their machine.

To activate this feature when using a mobile device with iOS or iPadOS 15 or higher:

  1. Go to Settings> Mail.
  2. Tap Privacy Protection
  3. Enable Protect email activity

Turn on Protect email activity on iPad or iPad

If you are on a Mac computer:

  1. Open the mail app
  2. Go to Preferences
  3. Click on Privacy
  4. Enable Protect email activity

Check the box to Protect email activity

Apple claims that this method will allow users to read their emails normally without blocking images, as it uploads all email content privately in the background and routes it through proxy servers .

What if I don’t have iOS 15 or Monterey or higher?

If you don’t have the latest update yet, or if you’re running a computer that’s too old to download Monterey or higher, there are other ways to block email tracking.

If you are on a Mac computer:

  1. Go to Settings> Mail
  2. Disable remote image upload

Uncheck the option

For iOS devices:

  1. Go to Mail> Preferences> Display
  2. Uncheck Upload remote content in messages

Deactivate

Since tracking pixels are usually embedded in an image or are tiny, invisible images, this is probably enough to stop them.

If you are tired of iPhone apps asking to track your activity, you can set an automatic answer of “No” to further protect your privacy.

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